Cover Story: Terminal condition

By Jeff Atkinson - bio l email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - If you thought you didn't have enough leg room on the plane, try standing in line at the airport.  First class or coach, everybody's getting the same brutal treatment at Charlotte Douglas International Airport

Checkpoint A is closed.  It's closed so the airport and the Transportation Security Administration can make upgrades.

B, C, and D are still open, but that's one checkpoint too few for air travelers.  It's cramped up chaos.

Some liken it to road construction - murder while the road's being widened, but worth it when it's over.

But it's not easy having a security checkpoint closed right now.  And like a lot of road projects the work's going on at the worst time.

No way to paint a pretty face on it.  It can be brutal at the airport these days.

"I travel quite a bit. This is about as bad as it gets."  That's passenger Rich Carreau, heading home Friday afternoon.

At Checkpoint B.  Checkpoint C.  And Checkpoint D.   It's stacked and packed, all because of what's behind the black curtain.  Checkpoint A is in tatters.

"Have you seen it this bad in Charlotte? No, not at all," says Carreau.  "This is the first time. I see they're renovating a gate down there they just haven't improvised their capacity."

With Checkpoint A undergoing renovation, the airport's 15 security screening lanes are down to 12.  That may not seem like a lot but it couldn't happen at a worse time:  Hot and sweaty summertime, when the airport is its busiest.

"Now tell me again about the recession in the airline industry," says Bob Hartness.  "And I guess they're saving money because they've turned off the air conditioning."

The Transportation Security Administration normally screens between 16,000 and 20,000 passengers a day.  Thursday 22,000 went through the checkpoints, that's a 12-percent increase from what they consider busy.

And they did it with only three checkpoints open.

"Last week I missed my flight," said passenger Tony Dixon.

And that's been the story for some people.  With "A" down, B and C checkpoints are getting the overflow and then some.

"Checkpoint C, a terrible line," says Dixon.  "I mean luckily, I was able to get another flight but it was very stressful."

Waits are worse in the morning between 8:00 - 10:00 o'clock.  And in the afternoon between 3:30 and 7:00 o'clock when a lot of international passengers arrive and have to go through the checkpoint before connecting on their domestic flight.

"I've been to a lot of airports before and when you come off an international usually you don't go back through security again. This is unique," said passenger Nancy Nottingham.

Mix in the weather it gets even worse.  Delays haven't been quite an hour, but it's a lot longer than Charlotte Douglas TSA likes it to be.

It's good timing the AeroClinic pharmacy opened up three weeks ago.

"Come and get your blood pressure checked with me.. every hour on the hour. We aim to please," says Mary Thompson with AeroClinic.

The aim is to have the work done by August 7th - three weeks from now.

The Airport's adding more space to Checkpoint A..  2,000 square feet - for future traffic and to accommodate a new full-body scanner.. replacing the metal detector.

Charlotte already has two of the high-tech screeners, it's adding a third.

What should you do?

Arrive earlier than you usually would-- especially if it's during those peak travel times.

And keep in mind you can go to any of the security screening checkpoints to the terminal.. because "A" is closed "B" is bombarded.. try "D" checkpoint at the far end of the terminal.

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